Disciplined surgeon says he's learned from mistakes

A Kamloops sports surgeon who was formally reprimanded Friday by the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons says he's learned from his mistakes.

The reprimand comes three years after a judge awarded former hockey player Josh Morrow $1.5 million for botched shoulder surgery performed by Dr. Ross Outerbridge.

The surgeon, whose full name is Arthur Ross Outerbridge, was sued for leaving a metal screw sticking out of a bone in a 2003 operation on Morrow's shoulder. After the surgery, he did not believe the patient when he complained of pain.

Morrow was 19 and a former Kamloops Blazer drafted by the Nashville Predators of the NHL. By the time the problem was caught - by a different doctor, more than a year later - there was too much damage and Morrow eventually had to give up on his hockey career.

Susan Prinz, communications director for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C., said Friday that Outerbridge admitted to engaging in unprofessional conduct in the 2003 case by failing to adequately record and disclose surgical complications to the patient.

"He's been formally reprimanded, so it will be on his record with the college," she said. "It's a fairly serious matter to be reprimanded by the college."

Outerbridge told The Daily News Friday he is knows he made mistakes. "I made some mistakes and I've learned from them. I know the consequences were very serious for this patient."

He said the case occurred nine years ago and has had an impact on how he does that particular operation and on him personally.

"I'm profoundly regretful for what happened to this particular patient. It was a technically difficult case. Unfortunately, in retrospect I made some bad decisions during surgery and didn't handle the outcome of it as forthrightly as I should have," he said.

"I have made some significant changes to the way I do this particular operation based on how difficult this one was. But the bottom line is, I could have been more forthright with the patient in how I dealt with it."

The surgeon said the courts and college have been fair.

"It has affected me. I'm very regretful that I made the decisions that I did that resulted in a poor outcome for a patient."

Prinz said the orthopedic surgeon can still work but his registration with the college is now listed as "conditional - disciplined class." He will stay under that classification until he has completed continuing medical education with a specific focus on duty to report and duty of disclosure to patients.

"It's understanding the issues of ethics, that's what's really important here," she said.

"You record everything post surgery. And if there's complications, you're absolutely obligated. That was quite serious, of course."

In Morrow's case, he was told the surgery went fine. Morrow continued to play, but was in pain that he tried to hide. He was cut from the Predators and returned to the Blazers.

The botched surgery was discovered in 2004 by another doctor. At that point, Morrow's shoulder was significantly damaged.

Outerbridge said he's recently switched to another type of equipment that has no potential to cause the kind of damage that occurred in Morrow's case.

"As to the college's proceedings, they started this almost three years ago. I've already essentially completed all the things they wanted me to complete. And I did that on my own before it got to this point," he said.

"Even before the case went to trial, I went back and reviewed the case and I admitted what I did was wrong."

He said, "We have to learn from our mistakes. We're all human."

Prinz said the type of re-education Outerbridge will take hasn't been mapped out by the college yet, but it will be intense and could involve a mentor or class.

"Human error happens, but this kind of not reporting and not disclosing is not common," she said.

"This one's not common. Not to this extent."

Outerbridge also has to pay the college $4,000 to cover legal costs.

"It was a lengthy and a very comprehensive investigation," said Prinz.

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